Mother JoEllen and Bishop Kera on the cover

The book cover is done and I love it.  Thanks to the Columbia University Press graphics design team which has gone above and beyond (and not only with this cover) in the publication process.  Thank you to Susan Collins, who took the photograph and gave permission to use it. Finally, thank you to Mother JoEllen Werthman and Bishop Kera Hamilton, pictured on the cover and “stars” of chapter 6.  The photo shows the ordination of JoEllen to the diaconate in Philadelphia in late 2005.

The Other Catholics is about independent Catholicism – Catholics who are not under the pope, numbering about a million in the U.S. and many more worldwide.  Without a pope, they can experiment a lot more. The independent Catholics in my story have been doing clerical marriage, women’s ordination and same-sex marriage for decades already.  Publication is on track for early 2016.

A book cover is usually out of the author’s hands, while she lets genius design and marketing people do their thing.  I did have some input, though.  Women’s ordination is the most immediate “wow” of the book, so I suggested that for the cover image.  It would be no problem to find such an image, because independent Catholics are ordination shutterbugs.  Yet it was a problem.  Design and marketing said all the photos looked staged and would not work for selling a trade book.  Finally I sent this one, which I had withheld because I thought it was too low a resolution.  But design loved it and here we are.

The photo is not staged.  Sue Collins attended the ordination of her friend JoEllen and snapped the shot in the moment.

I think something of the magic of the moment comes through.

Bishop Kera said she felt it was “a once-in-a-lifetime” photo as soon as she saw it for the first time.  She has a poster-sized print hanging in her living room.  “It’s symbolic of what a number of us are trying to do with our vocations,” Kera wrote.

If she means that independent Catholic vocations are tender but strong, full of shadow and light, and affect the world visibly but also ineffably, then I agree.  I’ve seen that first-hand.  That’s why I wrote the book.

Politi prophesies the wolves

cover66080-mediumMarco Politi, long-time Vatican-watcher and brilliant journalist, just published a book on the papacy of Francis.  An admirer of the pope’s surprise “revolution,” Politi writes that Francis’s formidable opponents make it far from certain that he will succeed.  I was honored to be asked by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs to interview Politi for a live audience and webcast about the book, Pope Francis Among the Wolves (Columbia University Press, 2015).  You can see the September 30 video of our interview here.

On that date, just as Pope Francis had left the United States and returned to Rome, news broke that he had met privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who had been jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  In a general op-ed uproar, U.S. liberals felt betrayed and conservatives felt vindicated.  Within a few days it came out that enemies of Francis within Roman church leadership likely set him up to seem to do something contrary to his inclusive message and ruin the good vibes of the American tour.  As the story unfolded, Politi’s book looked like a prophecy.

If Politi knew or suspected that night at the Carnegie Council that events would play out this way, he did not say.

Politi did tell me before the show, however, that he liked better the first cover proposed for his book, shown here.  Francis’s head is downcast.  He looks like he is leaving a scene of grief, or carnage. The press marketing department decided the photo was too sad.  Politi agreed; a book is meant to sell.  The new cover shows Francis with a modest smile.

But all the more, we now see what Politi’s book is about.  Even joyful revolutions are still wars.  We might see Francis smiling, but there are wolves.